'Stepping On'

‘Stepping On’ participants learn exercises in class. 

For some, a slip on the ice is an annoyance. For others, it can lead to hospitalization, or even death.

With age comes a greater chance of falling – and higher chances of major complications. Wisconsin has the second-highest rates of fall-related deaths in the nation, with a number of them being the national average, according to the Wisconsin Department of Health Services.

And in Dane County, falls are the top reason for injury-related hospitalization. For those who break a hip, 40 percent end up in a nursing home.

Those statistics are the impetus behind Stepping On, an international fall prevention course supported by research. Research in Wisconsin found that people who completed the workshop were 50 percent less likely to fall in the future.

The class meets weekly for seven weeks from April 14 - May 26 from 2-4 p.m. at the Colonial Club, located at 301 Blankenheim Lane.

Falls Prevention Program Manager Ashley Hillman said a variety of people take the program – from those fearful of falls to those who have suffered a bad fall or are worried about a loved one who is at risk of falls.

Along with future complications, they can completely change someone’s life, Hillman said.

“I think the most important reason why fall prevention education is so important is because they lose their independence,” she said.

Falls can have a variety of causes, including poor lighting, wearing inappropriate shoes, or diminishing depth perception. The program goes over ways to prevent these accidents.

The class is co-led by a trained instructor and a “peer leader” who has already gone through the sessions.

“The peer leader is valuable because it’s often easier to hear from somebody who has been in your situation,” Hillman said.

It includes visits from four specialists. One is a “community safety expert” – typically a police officer -- who can provide insight into community resources for support, and tell participants what to do if they do suffer a fall.

Another is a pharmacist who can provide guidance on preventing “adverse drug events” that result from different medications counteracting with each other. This can cause vision issues and other problems that lead to falls. The class also features a vision expert and a physical therapist.

Throughout the class, they discuss home safety, such as safe ways to arrange lighting and rugs and use assistive devices both inside and outside of the house.

The classes are intentionally small, capped at 15 participants.

“They really get to know each other -- they set goals,” she said. “It’s very individualized… kind of like a support group.”

The goals can be small, Hillman said, such as setting an appointment to meet with a pharmacist to review medication.

Australian public health researcher Dr. Lindy Clemson developed Stepping On, which came to the United States through the Wisconsin Institute for Healthy Aging and partners including the Centers for Disease Control.

Call the Colonial Club at (608) 837-4611 to register.

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